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What are the 6 Challenges Facing Glasshouses in 2023?

July 2023

This article reviews the top 6 challenges facing glasshouses in plant agriculture in 2023.

Glasshouses vs Greenhouses: Any Difference?

"Glasshouse" and "Greenhouse" are often used interchangeably to refer to structures designed to provide a controlled environment for growing plants. Historically, greenhouses referred to structures made of wood or metal frames covered with glass panels, while glasshouses expressly referred to structures made entirely of glass.

However, in modern usage, the two terms have mainly become interchangeable and can refer to structures made of various materials, including polycarbonate and other plastics. Despite historical distinctions, glasshouses and greenhouses serve the same fundamental purpose and face similar challenges.

6 Challenges Facing Glasshouses in 2023

While glasshouses as a form of controlled environments for farming offer a range of benefits, including year-round production, optimised growing conditions, and reduced reliance on pesticides and fertilisers, below are some of the biggest challenges glasshouses are facing in 2023.

1. Energy Consumption

Like other parts of the world, glasshouses in the UK face a significant challenge of high energy consumption. Energy costs account for up to 30% of glasshouse operating costs, and glasshouse gas emissions contribute to climate change.

Today, growers are adopting energy-efficient technologies such as LED lighting and insulated glazing, which can reduce energy consumption by up to 40%. Renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and biomass boilers, are also being integrated. These practices are crucial for reducing the environmental impact of glasshouses while also providing cost savings for growers.

2. Climate Change

Climate change is a growing concern for glasshouses in the UK and worldwide. Climate change has recently led to extreme weather conditions, such as heatwaves, droughts, and severe storms, negatively impacting plant growth and production. In fact, in the UK, the frequency and intensity of heat waves are expected to increase, posing a significant challenge for glasshouse growers.

Fortunately, glasshouse growers are adopting various strategies to reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to changing weather patterns. For example, some growers are adopting advanced climate control systems like our Gardin phenotyping solution that provide growers with insights that allow them to make changes to the plants environment. Others are experimenting with new crop variants better suited to the changing climate such as Enza Zaden who we support with our sensors.

Dr. Fabrizio Ticchiarelli-Marjot, Gardin's lead biologist commented:

"We were able to observe unforeseen patterns in the way some vegetable crop varieties responded to abiotic stress and we hope these insights will aid Enza Zaden in bringing these crops to market as soon as possible."

3. Cost

Costs are a significant challenge facing glasshouses and glasshouse farming in the UK and around the globe. And aside from energy costs, labour costs can also be a significant expense due to the need for skilled workers to manage and maintain the operation.

Glasshouse farmers are implementing various cost-cutting and efficiency-enhancing solutions to overcome these issues. Growers, for example, are using automation technology like robotics and sensors to minimise labour costs and increase output. Some are shifting to renewable energy or changing their crop portfolios to include higher-value crops that earn more revenue per square metre of growing space.

With the introduction of systems like our Gardin digital sensors and other novel methods, offsetting the high operational costs of a glasshouse while also improving profitability is now a reality.

4. Soil Health

While glasshouses provide an optimal habitat for growing plants by insulating them from external environmental influences like fluctuating temperature and pests, one of its primary challenges is preserving soil health.

Soil health is critical for plant growth and productivity. Over time, the soil in glasshouses can become depleted of nutrients, resulting in diminished plant growth and output. Furthermore, a glasshouse's constricted space can lead to salts and dangerous bacteria accumulating in the soil, further reducing soil health and plant yield.

Growers are beginning to employ proper soil management procedures in glasshouses to maintain soil health. This includes frequent soil testing to evaluate nutrient levels and pH and applying organic fertilisers and soil amendments to restore nutrients and improve soil structure.

5. Pest and Disease Management

Pest and disease management is a significant challenge for glasshouse growers in the UK. According to a UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board report, the most common pests affecting glasshouses include aphids, whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, and mealybugs. In contrast, common diseases include powdery mildew, botrytis, and damping-off.

To manage the problem of pests and diseases, growers are adopting integrated pest management strategies and advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning to control pests and diseases. Others now rely on a combination of cultural, mechanical, physical, and biological methods to manage pests and diseases in glasshouses. These methods include beneficial insects and microbes and cultural practices such as crop rotation and sanitation.

6. Increasing Food Production Demands

While Glasshouses offer numerous benefits, one of the challenges faced by glasshouses in 2023 is the increasing demand for food production. By 2050, the world population is projected to reach 9.8 billion, which will further strain the ability of existing food production systems to meet the growing demand.

Glasshouses are a popular solution to this challenge because they allow for year-round cultivation of crops and can protect plants from adverse weather conditions and pests. However, the increasing demand for food production requires glasshouse growers to optimise their production processes, increase efficiency and yield, and adopt sustainable practices to reduce their environmental impact.

Moreover, the high initial cost of building and maintaining glasshouses can be a significant barrier for smaller growers who may struggle to compete with larger, more established operations. Thus, meeting the growing demand for food production through glasshouses will require strategic planning and investment to ensure that they remain a viable solution for sustainable food production.

How Gardin Neurotyping Platform is Changing Glasshouse Farming

As Glasshouse growers face mounting costs and static prices, many find themselves in survival mode. The only way to increase profitability is by boosting yield, and for most, that means taking on the challenge of reducing variability.

To solve the issue of variability, increase yield across farms, and make better crop-growing decisions, we at Gardin, one of the UK leading agricultural technology companies, designed the Gardin platform. Through our high-tech sensors and the Gardin platform, we provide growers with real-time insights into plant performance, enabling growers to make data-driven decisions to increase yield.

We are also committed to helping growers move away from an eye examination, which is not only time intensive and subjective, but only detects problems after they have occurred. Our Gardin sensors and data-driven platform analyses photosynthetic performance to provide real-time information about how plants respond to their surroundings. This enables growers to make quick, informed decisions to increase productivity.

Conclusion

Even in 2023, Glasshouses and its growers still confront several challenges that must be addressed to ensure their future success. Climate change, energy prices, labour shortages, pests and diseases, and sustainability are some challenges. To overcome these challenges, glasshouse farmers may need to invest in innovative technologies and techniques that improve efficiency, reduce energy usage, and limit waste.

Are you a Glasshouse grower looking to overcome the challenges facing glasshouses in 2023? Look no further than Gardin, our cutting-edge agricultural technology sensors and intuitive platform designed to help you increase yields, reduce variability, and make data-driven decisions.

By adopting our Gardin products, we can help you stay ahead of the curve and keep your glasshouse operations sustainable and profitable. Contact us today to learn more about our products and how they can transform your glasshouse operations.